Who Is Alek Sigley? Student Missing in North Korea After Interview With State Newspaper

An Australian student has disappeared in North Korea, prompting fears he may have been detained by the totalitarian state. Alex Sigley, 29, is from Perth in the state of Western Australia. He has been living in North Korea while studying at the Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang, one of the few foreigners doing so.

His friends and family have not heard from him since Tuesday morning, prompting concerns that he has been arrested, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Australia's foreign ministry has said it is "urgently seeking clarification" on reports that Sigley had been detained. "The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is providing consular assistance, in accordance with the Consular Services Charter, to the family of an Australian man who has been reported as being detained in North Korea," a department spokesperson told Newsweek.

Sigley had been living in Pyongyang since early 2018 while studying a Korean literature course. He also runs Tongil Tours, a company that provides tours of the secretive state for foreign visitors.

There is no indication as to why Sigley—who is fluent in both Korean and Mandarin—may have been detained. According to the Herald, Sigley had submitted his thesis and was preparing to return home to Australia when he disappeared.

The Herald reported that Sigley was interviewed by official state newspaper Rodong Sinmun in an article published on June 25, around the time family and friends lost touch with the student.

The article read: "The President of the Australia's Unification Tours who visited our country said that [Democratic People's Republic of Korea] is a very fascinating country and that there is no other country like DPRK in the world. He said, in fact, to visit and to see is the most important way to break the negative perception of the country."

Sigley's family has stressed there has been no confirmation of his arrest, AFP noted. A family statement explained, "The situation is that Alek has not been in digital contact with friends and family since Tuesday morning Australian time, which is unusual for him."

A friend, Crispin Rovere, told AFP that Sigley is "the nicest guy on Earth" and "only ever interested in sharing North Korea's culture with the world and improving people-to-people connections."

He documented his frequent travels to—and since 2018 his day-to-day life in—the hermit state using his blog and social media platforms. The content focused on North Korean culture and avoided any thorny political issues, NK News noted.

Alek Sigley, North Korea, student, missing, arrested
This file photo shows the city skyline of Pyongyang, North Korea, on September 7, 2018. ED JONES/AFP/Getty